White Paper

Understand the Essential Capabilities of Cloud Security Posture Management Tools

Knowing the features of CSPM solutions allows organizations to select the tool that best meets their needs.
by: Paul Shelton |
September 08, 2020

The cloud has become a critical part of most organizations’ IT operations. Businesses across industries are deploying new cloud services on an almost daily basis, and each of these decisions alters the organization’s cloud security posture. The adoption of a new service creates new risks to the confidentiality, integrity and availability of sensitive data, and cybersecurity professionals must adapt quickly to manage these risks.

Cloud security posture management (CSPM) tools are designed to help cybersecurity professionals identify and manage these risks. They reach directly into cloud solutions to analyze configurations and detect potential security issues before an incident occurs, allowing cybersecurity teams to track their risk mitigation efforts and rapidly identify new vulnerabilities when they arise. 

Top-tier CSPM solutions share several key features. First and foremost, they must integrate directly with the cloud services that are most important to an organization. They then provide the ability to build an inventory of cloud configurations and map the current status of those configurations to security control frameworks and regulatory standards adopted by the organization. CSPM solutions support the DevOps model by providing automation capabilities that facilitate the prompt remediation of detected issues.

Several vendors offer comprehensive solutions in the CSPM space. As organizations work to select an appropriate tool for CSPM, they should be aware of the essential capabilities of these tools and any available features that can help make their cloud security efforts more effective. Knowing these capabilities and features allows organizations to better select the CSPM tool that will best meet their needs and understand the top benefits of CSPM tools in general.

21 million

The number of unique passwords (along with 770 million email addresses) that were exposed in a popular hacking forum after they had been hosted in the cloud service MEGA

Source: Check Point, “2020 Cyber Security Report,” (PDF) August 2020

Find the Right Fit

The most important consideration when selecting a CSPM platform is verifying that the tool supports the cloud environments used by the organization. Most major CSPM platforms now support cloud Infrastructure as a Service providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. Enterprises using other cloud providers should verify that the tool supports those providers and that it has a rich-enough integration with them to perform detailed security assessments. As organizations adopt multicloud and hybrid cloud approaches to IT, they should verify that their CSPM tool will work effectively across those environments. Multicloud CSPM solutions should be able to not only validate configurations across all of an organization’s providers but also integrate the findings from those environments into a consolidated dashboard.

Another core capability of CSPM tools is their ability to perform assessments against a variety of industry and regulatory standards. The major tools are all capable of performing assessments against the same core set of standards: the Amazon Web Services security framework, National Institute of Standards and Technology cloud security standards and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard regulatory requirements for organizations involved in processing credit card transactions. Organizations with specific regulatory needs should determine how well the prospective CSPM solutions support those regulatory standards and the ease of reporting against those standards during internal and third-party audits. Well-designed tools can dramatically simplify the process of preparing for an audit by producing artifacts that validate security controls while directly mapping those controls to the standards used by the auditors. This approach makes the auditors’ job easier, reduces the burden on IT teams to produce audit artifacts and improves the overall audit experience for all concerned.

It’s common for organizations to have assets deployed in the cloud that fall outside the scope of their existing configuration management tools. Whether they are services that were expected to be set up temporarily but became permanent or they were built by people outside of the central IT unit, these untracked services can pose significant security risks because they are often unmonitored and unmaintained. CSPM solutions include asset inventory and management capabilities that allow organizations to discover what services are deployed in their cloud environments and track those services from initial deployment through deprovisioning.

Meet Your Specific Needs

Another way that CSPM platforms distinguish themselves is in the degree of customization that they allow organizations to perform to tune the tool for use in their technical and regulatory environments. This may be as simple as allowing the creation of customized analysis and reporting templates, or it may be as complex as providing application programming interface (API) integration capabilities that allow direct, real-time interaction between the CSPM and other security tools. This integration allows other tools to trigger CSPM scans and to provide configuration and other information that helps inform the results of a CSPM analysis.

Exposing the capabilities of a CSPM tool through an API also allows a deep integration of CSPM capabilities into a DevOps automation approach to systems and application development. Organizations operating modern software development shops seek to rapidly deploy software and reduce the overhead associated with security analysis and testing. CSPM tools that expose an API may be directly integrated into a DevOps deployment model, automatically triggering an assessment at the time that a new system or code modification is deployed to production and automatically adding new systems to recurring CSPM configuration checks. This approach increases the agility of software development and security teams, and it improves the visibility of the tool into an organization’s cloud environment.

CSPM tools also provide the ability to directly integrate with an organization’s identity and access management infrastructure. These IAM integrations provide users with a familiar single sign-on experience when they interact with the tool and improve the ability of CSPM administrators to monitor and control user access to the tool. IAM integrations prove especially useful in the provisioning and deprovisioning processes. New administrators may be quickly added to the system when they assume a related role in the organization, and departing employees may be automatically removed from the system as part of the offboarding workflow.

The goal of deploying a CSPM tool is to provide an organization with deep visibility into the current state of its cloud security posture. Effective CSPM solutions integrate findings from across the variety of cloud services used by an organization and provide administrators with the ability to quickly recognize and correct security vulnerabilities and potential regulatory issues. In some cases, this situation may be automatically remediated to prevent even a temporary exposure of cloud assets that might result in a compromise. CSPM solutions offer security administrators a holistic view of their cloud security environment that allows them to focus their efforts on the most pressing security issues.

Want to learn more about how CDW can help you improve your cloud security? Read the white paper “Manage Your Cloud Security Posture Effectively” from CDW.

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